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Heat signs Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman

One hour ago, the Miami Heat did not have a single center on its roster. Now it has two.

Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman have each signed contracts.

Joel Anthony

Anthony, soon to be 28 years old, has accepted a five-year, $18.25 million deal.

He will add value to the organization as a defensive and shot-blocking specialist. But the deal is too rich, and far too long.

Anthony is a 6-foot, 9-inch power forward playing out of position at center against a league of giants due to extreme offensive deficiencies. He is perhaps the single worst offensive player in game today. His inability to catch the basketball invites double teams toward his more talented teammates. When he does catch it, he’s often utterly confused as to what to do with it. When he’s on the floor, the Heat effectively plays offense four-against-five.

Even more troubling is how shockingly poor he is at rebounding. He seems to lack both the instincts for finding the ball and the coordination to grab it when comes his way. Oftentimes, any value he creates on the defensive end is entirely offset by his inability to capitalize on it by grabbing a rebound.

If you’re a wildly undersized center who can’t play offense and can’t rebound the basketball, it’s difficult to justify a contract greater than the minimum salary.

Heat president Pat Riley defended the contract shortly after it was executed:

This contract with Joel Anthony is a testament to the man who is second to none; who has worked hard and deserved this. We felt that what he has done over the last couple of years in developing his game, his body and his knowledge warrants this reward.

Riley got emotional on this one.

Rewarding effort is wonderful in theory, but not at the expense of improving your basketball team. And certainly not under what will undoubtedly be a much more restrictive salary cap environment to come. In such an environment, the rule of thumb is simple: pay only what you must to retain the talent you want. Because the cost of giving any more could be having to break up your team.

Anthony began the offseason by opting out of the second season on his minimum salary contract in order to test his value on the free agent market. Weeks went by. No inquiries. Nobody was interested. He was, quite simply, worth the minimum salary contract he opted out of.

The Heat could have chosen to give just that much. They didn’t.

Some are suggesting that Joel’s contract has been structured to be a future trade chip, after his BYC status expires at the end of the season. It wasn’t.

Anthony is pushing 30. NBA players don’t continue to develop at that age. He’s clearly not an asset now. How could he possibly be in two years?

The Heat know it. They didn’t structure his contract as a potential trade chip. In fact, they didn’t structure it well under any circumstances. Salary cap guru Andy Elisburg could have done a much better job. He could have, for example, offered a much more palatable three-year deal, with a higher starting salary that declined by the maximum 10.5% each year. There’s nothing better for a potential trade partner than receiving a contract that actually declines in value in future seasons. It’s the same story for the Heat if they plan to retain him. They lose nothing by offering Anthony more money today, when there are no luxury tax implications, and having his contract decline over time into an uncertain salary cap environment.

It’s certainly nice to have Joel on board. But there’s really no excuse for the crazy contract that was offered to him.

Dexter Pittman

Pittman, the No. 32 pick in last month’s draft, was signed to a three-year minimum salary deal. The first year is fully guaranteed. The second year is fully unguaranteed, becoming 10% guaranteed if he is not waived on or before June 30, 2011, 80% guaranteed if he is not waived on or before July 25, 2011, and fully guaranteed on opening night. The final year is fully unguaranteed, becoming fully guaranteed on June 30, 2012.

With limited roster spots remaining, such an early commitment to Pittman is equally questionable.

Pittman has the offensive repertoire Joel lacks, with a nice touch around the basket, and has the potential to be a solid contributor if he can get his conditioning in check. But he is still very raw, and the Heat organization has an aversion to giving its youngsters significant NBA-level playing time with which to develop.

With Joel now under contract and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire set to climb on board shortly, Pittman is likely to be sent to the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, for development.

Riley has already hinted as much.

Dexter has the size and agility to be a very productive player for us in the long run, and there is no better place for him to improve than in the Miami Heat system.

If Pittman does not find his way into the Heat’s rotation, questions could certainly be asked as to why he was given a roster spot  so early into the offseason. It remains to be seen just how valuable that final roster spot will become.

There were certainly other options.

Riley could have elected to analyze Pittman’s potential over the course of the offseason before offering a contract; Pittman hasn’t performed particularly well during summer league play. He could have also chosen to save the roster spot and allow Dexter to develop for a season unaffiliated with the Heat, perhaps in Europe, while still retaining Pittman’s draft rights. Neither is an option any longer. Pittman is now under contract to the Heat.

***

With four centers (Anthony, Pittman, Ilgauskus, and Magloire) and three power forwards (Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard) soon to be under contract, the Heat’s power rotation, barring any unforeseen circumstances, is now complete.

Score these two Riley signings in the questionable pile.

  1. Curtis
    July 16th, 2010 at 19:59 | #1

    So this is where we currently stand:

    C: Joel Anthony / Zydrunas Ilgauskas / Dexter Pittman
    PF: Chris Bosh / Udonis Haslem
    SF: LeBron James / Mike Miller
    SG: Dwyane Wade
    PG: Mario Chalmers

  2. JT
    July 16th, 2010 at 20:29 | #2

    I don’t understand the Pittman signing. Hasn’t he looked soft and underdeveloped in the Summer League? I haven’t had a chance to watch too much of the SL, so I would appreciate any insight on why Pittman would make the roster.

  3. jim
    July 16th, 2010 at 22:21 | #3

    @JT
    By signing Pittman, the Heat can develop a big man for 3 years cheap,have him in their system and work with their trainers. He’s not going to get much playing time so they may even opt him to the nbdl for a time in the season. It’s a low risk move, similar to what they did with Chalmers.

  4. Jack
    July 16th, 2010 at 23:58 | #4

    @Curtis

    Mike Miller is more of a shooting guard than anything else really…He’ll certainly be D-Wade’s backup.

  5. Curtis
    July 17th, 2010 at 00:22 | #5

    He plays both positions as a swingman and will likely back up both guys getting about 25-30 minutes a night.

  6. lucas fb
    July 17th, 2010 at 00:37 | #6

    i think miller is every bit of sf. even thoug even himself like to call miller as a sg.

    i think it is to play more with his love the queen, who is also a sf.

    but im certainly not saying he cant play sg. just ll be more vulnerable to defend quick guards that way!!! and to me, miller does everything a sf should do, so…

    but he sure ll backup both wade and queen. and ll play along with both too(could even start,specially if we dont upgrade the pg spot,what i think is we ll upgrade!!!)

  7. lucas fb
    July 17th, 2010 at 02:32 | #7

    and i really hope we can sign dampier for the minimum.
    but if i could i would have offered joel the minimum and throw to dampier something close to a 3year 10M contract.
    that way heat spendings would be more right(if i was miller,or even ud i would be piss with joel earning almost the same that i make)

    but if dampier sign with us for the minimum is all good. but i dont think i would have signed juan then.thoug i know we would have to make a move for juan probably much earlyer!!!
    thats what could spoil the situation just a bit.

    “But i dont remember how many players or dollars we can have/spend with the minimum???”

    cause if there s no limits,or a high limit. juan signing should be good.for the standpoint he s experient,didnt played too bad last year,and micky has the money to sign him.and we r barelly at the cap,so micky would do it with a smile on his face!!!

    juan can play pf for sure,but remember that last year he played much more center than pf, for portland!!!

  8. Heat-Struck
    July 17th, 2010 at 12:25 | #8

    Joel money could of been giving to Dampier… but we would of had to play the waiting game. Because Dampier is not a free agent, and there’s no telling when he’s going to get dumped into the market. Anyways, lets worry about getting that on defensive wing player. Rasual Butler anyone?

    …here’s question. I thought we could only sign Joel to the minimum. Is it because Mike Miller took less money to accomodate Joel’s contract, or is it because of our bird rights?

    • July 17th, 2010 at 12:33 | #9

      @Heat-Struck
      Actually, Joel’s money could not have been re-directed to Dampier. The path the Heat ultimately chose with Joel was exactly that which I have described in various posts. Please click the Joel Anthony tag to see how the mechanics worked.

      In short, Joel was issued such a large contract, which exceeded the salary cap, because the Heat retained his Bird rights. Nobody took less money to accommodate his salary (well, to be completely fair, $380,785 of cap space was sacrificed).

      If anybody would appreciate a detailed write-up on the situation, please let me know and I will do so.

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